Saturday, October 10, 2015

“Let the good rejoice in the Lord”

October 10, 2015
SATURDAY, Year I, week 27:

The Responsorial Psalm gives a guideline for our hearts: “Let the good rejoice in the Lord” (Psalm 97).

If the word “judgment” sounds negative to us, we may be making some false assumptions. When Joel 4: 12-21 says, “Near is the day of the Lord, the valley of decision,” he continues: “The heavens and the earth quake, but the Lord is a refuge to his people.” Those who are with God look forward to the day when God will purify the world by separating right from wrong. “Then shall you know that I, the Lord, am your God…. Jerusalem shall be holy….On that day the mountains shall drip new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk.” The “day of the Lord” is something to look forward to. It will make the truth evident to all. “Let the good rejoice in the Lord.

The “day of the Lord” is something that we, as stewards of the kingship of Christ are working to bring about. Our task and privilege on this earth is to cooperate with God in establishing God’s reign over every area and activity of human life on earth. But it is discouraging business. We live in a society where falsehood is accepted as truth, where people too ignorant to know there is a God are accepted as intellectuals, where the unprincipled and the arrogant are elected to be leaders, where greed and avarice determine national policy and force is preferred over a diplomacy of peace. Instead of sitting down with those who hate us and asking what justifiable grievances they might have, we prefer to meet them on the battleground and to dialogue with bullets and bombs. This will all be set right on the “day of the Lord.” “Let the good rejoice in it.

Luke 11: 27-28 is a “heads up” that cautions us not to judge that day by appearances. The woman in the crowd thought Jesus’ mother was fortunate to have such a son. But she only saw what was visible, and not that Mary was the Mother of God. Jesus says any person who receives divine life through faith and lives by it is more blessed than what that woman saw in Mary’s motherhood as a purely human blessing.

When we set about transforming and renewing society, we must not let our vision stop short with merely human social reforms. We have not really helped people much if all we gain for them is prosperity, peace and a fair share of the power at work in the world. When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come!” we follow it with “Thy will be done.” Our goal must always be that “life to the full” for all people that Jesus came to give. Otherwise we ourselves and all we have accomplished will be found wanting on the “day of the Lord.” “Let the good rejoice in the Lord,” not just in better social structures.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Look always to his goal, to his understanding of the Kingdom, and work for that.

Friday, October 9, 2015

“The Lord will judge the world with justice”

October 9, 2015
FRIDAY, Year I, week 27:

The Responsorial Psalm declares an enduring fact: “The Lord will judge the world with justice” (Psalm 9).

In Joel 1:13 to 2:2 the “day of the Lord” does not sound like a day to look forward to! “It comes as ruin from the Almighty… a day of darkness and of gloom.” But it is in fact a day of piercing light: “The Lord will judge the world with justice.” Then the false light of this world, the light of distorted cultures, attitudes and values, will be revealed as darkness. In the Lord’s “judgment” (the root meaning is “separation”), all will see, as Malachi proclaimed yesterday, “the distinction between the just and the wicked.” As in the famous judgment scene of Matthew 25: 31-46, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…. all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” This is the triumph of light and truth.

More important than what Joel foretells is what he calls the people to do: “Proclaim a fast, call an assembly, gather the elders, all who dwell in the land… and cry to the Lord.” Those who recognize that their society is headed toward destruction must not just sit around and criticize. Anyone who sees what is wrong must exercise leadership. It is their responsibility to “call an assembly, gather the elders,” urge “all who dwell in the land” to do something about it — beginning, of course, with prayer, but letting prayer guide and motivate to action. This is responsible stewardship.

In Luke 11: 15-26 Jesus is accused of being in league with the devil! He turns the accusation to good by using it to give a very important teaching: “Any house torn by dissension falls.” Those who would exercise leadership, whether in the Church or in society, must always strive to unify people. We do this, first, by avoiding words and actions that are needlessly divisive such as labeling, misrepresentation, over-simplification and inflammatory language. But the ultimate source of unity can only be union with Jesus Christ. In union with him we find communion with one another. The best way to disagree is to first make clear what we agree on, sharing our common experience of dealing with God, until we “find Christ” in one another — even if in non-Christians he has to be recognized under a different name.

The first petition of the Our Father is “Hallowed be thy name!” God revealed his name to the Jews as “I AM WHO AM.” The Muslim One God is so identical to YAHWEH in meaning that Jesuit missionaries in Chad used “Allah” to translate “God” into native dialects because it was understood. Some Native Americans call God “Grandfather.” Who knows what the Holy Spirit may be revealing to them under that name?

Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” But he also said, “Whoever is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50). Those we think are against us may well be with Christ, even if they do not know it themselves. Eventually all will be clear: “The Lord will judge the world with justice.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Gather people together to work for change. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

“Happy are they who hope in the Lord”

October 8, 2015
THURSDAY, Year I, week 27:

The Responsorial Psalm makes a flat statement: “Happy are they who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 1).

Malachi 3: 13-20 tells us we have an either-or choice: to base our hope on what we see, or on what God says. And the key to it is our time-frame.

At almost any moment in history it seems to us that “the proud are blessed” and that “evildoers prosper.” We see the rich and powerful breaking laws with arrogance and getting away with it. This is true of nations (markedly our own) as well as of individuals. But God says:

You shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked…. The day is coming… when all the proud and evildoers will be stubble… For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.

For us that “day” always seems to be coming, but not here! This summons us to change our time-frame.

We live in linear time, in which the past is gone and the future does not yet exist. But God sees time as a circle, in which past, present and future are all present at once in one eternal “now.” For God “that day” has already come, and it is present now. We proclaim this at Mass: “For the kingdom, the power and the glory” — the triumph of the “end times” that we pray for in the Our Father — “are yours now” as well as forever! What we look forward to with hope, God sees as present now. That is a basic principle of Christian life: “Happy are they who hope in the Lord.” And miserable are they who do not, however it may appear in our time.

Luke 11: 5-13 shows us how to make hope real. We experience the truth of our hope by expressing it in prayer and action. The way to enter into Christian hope is to pray for everything God promises, and then to act as if our prayer were already answered. A Jesuit novice master used to say, “When you ask God for a virtue, act as if you had it and you will have it!”

When Jesus tells us, “Ask, and you shall receive,” and tells us to keep asking with persistence, it is in the context of what he has just taught us to ask for in the Our Father. If we keep praying that God will be known and loved throughout the world — “Hallowed be thy name!” — that his Kingdom will come and his will be done perfectly on earth as in heaven, this will be granted to us. “Ask, and you shall receive.”
Next we ask God to “give and forgive.” If we focus all our desire on the “future bread” of the wedding banquet (Jesus himself), where “peace and unity” will be the fruit of everyone forgiving and being forgiven without reserves, we will be empowered as stewards of God’s reign to persevere in faith, hope and the fidelity of “steadfast love” in efforts to bring this about.

The proof of hope is action. We know we are praying with real faith and hope when we work for what we pray for. When as stewards of his kingship we keep working for the establishment of Christ’s reign over every area and activity of human life in the world, we know our hope is real. “Happy are they who hope in the Lord.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Believe in his triumph and work for it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

“Lord, you are tender and full of love”

October 7, 2015
WEDNESDAY, Year I, week 27:

The Responsorial Psalm proclaims, “Lord, you are tender and full of love” (Psalm 86).

In Jonah 4: 1-11 Jonah is angry because God did not destroy Nineveh. He was thinking about that one city in Iraq the way we once thought about the whole country: how evil and dangerous it was; what a threat it was to us and to our prosperous society. Many were angry because we did not destroy Iraq after the Gulf War. Many voted to destroy it later so that we might feel safe. We have been suffering ever since the consequences of our post-Gulf-War “pre-emptive strike” against Iraq, which was condemned as immoral at the time by the pope and the United States Bishops Conference.

God reminded Jonah there were in Nineveh “more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left” — presumably infants. But Jonah still wanted the city destroyed. We cannot “cast the first stone at him, because about a month after the Gulf War a Harvard Study Team reported to the President that 55,000 children under five had already died because we had bombed Iraq’s electrical plants, destroying the water-treatment systems, and that at least another 170,000 children would die during the coming year if the economic sanctions we imposed on Iraq were not lifted. We chose to let them die. If Saddam Hussein was at fault for not complying with our terms, we became even more guilty by killing in retaliation far more children than there were in Nineveh.[1]

Our knee-jerk solution to situations that threaten us is violence. Our government wants us to be perceived as a nation that is powerful and full of vengeance against anyone who attacks us. But God thinks differently: “Lord, you are tender and full of love.” Whom do we follow?

In Luke 11: 1-4 Jesus teaches us that if we choose to follow him we should conform our hearts to his by making the petitions of the Our Father our first priorities. These are the goals Jesus lived and died for. If we make them our priorities we will learn how to pray — and what we should pray and work for.

These goals are already achieved! The Our Father is an “eschatological” prayer that asks for the “end time,” for Christ’s victory to be complete. We need to work for God’s victory in our time, but in God’s time it already is: “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now — and forever!”

This is the source of our hope. Jesus has already won. “Take courage,” he said on the eve of his apparent defeat on the cross: “I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33). He says the same to us today. As stewards of his kingship we need to keep working with unfailing hope to bring about change in the world, in spite of all discouragement.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Take hope, give hope, and work with hope.

[1] The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported in December, 1995, that by that date more than one million Iraqis had died — more than 600,000 of them children — as a direct result of our economic sanctions. By September, 1997, this was updated to 750,000 children.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

“If you, O Lord, laid bare our guilt, who could endure it?”

October 6, 2015
TUESDAY, Year I, week 27:

The Responsorial Psalm invites us to recognize that we always have need to change things in our lives and society: “If you, O Lord, laid bare our guilt, who could endure it?” (Psalm 130).

In Jonah 3:1-10, when the people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s proclamation, they believed him. But more than that, they expressed it in action. They made immediate changes in their lives: they began to fast and to wear clothes that said they were doing penance — which means examining their lives, turning to God with willingness to change. And the king of Nineveh ordered that the people should go beyond these symbolic expressions of metanoia (a “change of mind“) and make substantial changes in social policies and practices: changes in family and social life, in business and politics. He specifically singled out violence: “Every man shall turn from his evil ways and from the violence he has in hand.” It was the whole society of Nineveh that God was threatening to destroy; so it was the whole society that needed to accept and initiate changes.

The response the Church has us make to this reading is, “If you, O Lord, laid bare our guilt, who could endure it?” If God actually made manifest all the policies and practices of our country and in our country — business deals, the deals our government makes behind closed doors, the decisions about domestic and foreign policy that never make the news, or that make it but are reported with so much “spin” that no one realizes what we are actually doing as a nation — if God actually “laid bare our guilt, who could endure it?” And if he does not lay bare our guilt — or we don’t — and we do not change our ways, is there anyone who doubts that our society is headed for destruction? To take just one example, how deep do we have to bury our heads in the sand not to see that when there is such discrepancy between the rich and the poor, both in our country and in others, and such a gap between people in our country living in affluence, and whole populations in other countries living in misery, it is just a matter of time before “whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores”? [1]

What will we do about it? As a steward of the kingship of Christ, what are you doing about it? Are you hearing Jonah’s voice here?

Luke 10: 38-42 shows us one thing we all can do — not as a cop-out, but for starters. Like Mary, we can pray. We can pray seriously, in private and in public. We can admit our guilt and ask God for mercy and guidance. We can acknowledge that we have brought terrorism upon ourselves and seek a solution in conversion rather than in violence.

Then see what God inspires us to do.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Open your eyes and help steer the boat.

[1] See Edwin Markham’s “Man With a Hoe.”

Monday, October 5, 2015

“You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord”

October 5, 2015
MONDAY, Year I, week 27:

The Responsorial is Jonah’s prayer of thanksgiving: “You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord” (Jonah 2: 2-8).

Jonah 1:1 to 2:11 shows us a man who, though a prophet, did not have the spirit of love, and did not want to do God’s work in God’s way. To Jonah the people of Nineveh were the enemy; he wanted God to destroy them. When sent to call them to conversion he fled from the task and from God.

That Jonah had to die — not physically, but as all of us die in Baptism: by being incorporated into the death of Jesus on the cross, going down into the grave with him and rising in him to live a new life as a “new creation” (2Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15). That is what happened symbolically when Jonah was swallowed up into the belly of the fish and spit out three days later.

In Jonah’s story and in Matthew 8:24 both Jonah and Jesus are sleeping during the storm that is threatening their boat. When they “rise” God calms the storm: the first time when Jonah accepts to sacrifice his life by being thrown overboard; the second when, with a single word, Jesus shows himself to be the “God who made the sea and the dry land,” for “even the winds and the sea obey him.” However, this miracle, like all his saving, healing miracles, was rooted in his own sacrificial death on the cross (see Matthew 8:17, Isaiah 53:4). So when we take responsibility for saving the society that is sinking around us, or the Church that seems to be making no headway against the opposing winds and currents of our times, we can only do it by “dying” to our way of doing things and “rising “to live as Jesus: “You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.

In Luke 10: 25-37 Jesus teaches us that God’s way is the way of love. The Great Commandment that should rule every response we make to God or other people is love.

Jesus makes it specific that this love knows no boundaries, nationalistic or otherwise. In contrast to Jonah, who did not want to help the Ninevites, the hero of Jesus’ story is a Samaritan who showed himself a “neighbor” to a wounded Jew, even though the Samaritans and Jews were in nationalistic and religious conflict (see Luke 9:52-53; John 4:9).

For those who accept the “catholic,” the “universal” Church, there can be no distinction in the love we give to fellow-citizens and foreigners, to friends and enemies. We are specifically commanded to love our enemies with the love Jesus showed for us “while we were still sinners” (John 13:34; Romans 5:8, Matthew 9:13; 5:44). When Christians work, as stewards of the kingship of Christ, to “renew the face of the earth” we work to renew it for all.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Renew the world through universal love.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Be Stewards of the Truth

October 4, 2015  

Twenty-Seventh Sunday of the Year B



Be Stewards of the Truth

May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives (Responsorial: Psalm 128).

Do I see myself as the “steward” of precious truth the world has need of? What am I doing to preserve this truth? To share it with others? To implant it in society?

The Entrance Antiphon declares God’s supremacy: “The heavens, earth and stars are your creation: you are Lord of all.” In the Opening Prayer(s) we affirm God’s boundary-breaking kindness and love : ”Your love for us surpasses all our hopes and desires…. Your goodness is beyond what our spirit can touch and your strength is more than the mind can bear.”

We recognize, however, that what we ourselves do plays an essential role in preserving the blessings of creation and extending them to all of humanity. And so we ask God to make us faithful stewards of his kingship: “Keep us in your peace and lead us in the way of salvation.” And because God’s way, the way of “life to the full” sometimes seems impossible to understand or achieve, we continue: “Lead us to seek beyond our reach and give us the courage to stand before your truth.” We are stewards of incomprehensible truth and preservers of humanly unattainable ideals. What we manage is always more than we can grasp. We need to keep growing into our job through persevering “obedient service” in order to arrive at “the fullness of redemption” (Prayer over the Gifts).

In the Responsorial Psalm we ask God to persevere in blessing us so that we might persevere in serving him: “May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.” God’s commitment is forever. So is ours.

Stewardship of respect

Genesis 2: 18-24 makes a clear distinction between two kinds of stewardship.  First God “brought to the man” all the birds and animals he had made “to see what he would call them.” The right to “name” something is the right to define its purpose, its true meaning and value. And in God’s plan every creature “was to bear the name the man would give it.” It is the responsibility of rational humans first to recognize the Creator’s intentionality evident in the design of every being. Following that, it is the right of humans, as the stewards of creation, to decide, with respect for that intentionality, what use to put things to:

God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion…. over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and over every living thing upon the earth.”[1]

But there is an exception. As God tells the story, he formed the first woman from the man’s rib, and when God “brought her to the man, the man exclaimed, ‘This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh.’” This was God’s way of correcting the assumption among primitive (and not-so-primitive) tribes that women were not the equals of men, but, like the animals, just something men could capture, enslave, and use as they saw fit. In God’s story the man sees the woman is made “of the same stuff” that she is; in other words, an equal.

This story gives to humans another kind of stewardship: stewardship of the truth, and of the operative principle that no human being, male or female, is ever to be dominated by another or used for another’s purposes. We are all charged with the responsibility of recognizing every human as “flesh of our flesh.” And we accept the responsibility, as God’s stewards, of calling others to recognize this same truth and to follow this same principle. There is no peace or salvation for life on earth without it.

Stewards of relationship

The Genesis story takes the relationship of man and woman beyond mutual respect. God gives Eve to Adam to be his wife. And the passage ends, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one flesh.” This is the proclamation of a relationship so close, so absolute, that it takes priority even over relationship with one’s own father and mother.

This instruction makes us the stewards of a truth that establishes the relationship of husband and wife as the first of all human relationships, with which nothing must be allowed to interfere.

In Mark 10: 2-16, when Jesus is asked about divorce, he first recalls what God originally intended marriage to be. But it did not remain the way God meant it to be. Sin, both personal and cultural, made it sometimes impossible for couples to live together. So Moses, as God’s spokesman, allowed divorce.

Jesus, however, when asked, leaves no doubt about the ideal: God wants every married couple to love each other as their own bodies, and to be as inseparable as the members of one body, because that, in fact, is what they have become.[2]

Before we interpret Jesus’ teaching about divorce and remarriage as a binding law, we need to compare this passage with the radical teaching on poverty that follows it in Matthew and Mark. The passages are parallel in structure.  In both, Jesus 1. answers a question by proclaiming a radical ideal. 2. His disciples question what he says as impossible. 3. Jesus does not back down, but suggests that the ideal (of poverty in Mark; of both marriage and poverty in Matthew) is not humanly attainable, but that by God’s grace it is possible for humans to live on a level that is natural only to God.

The Church has interpreted the teaching about divorce as a law; not, however, the teaching about poverty, which is much stronger in the Gospels. Luke gives the teaching on divorce in just one isolated verse, which—significantly or not—is inserted into a long passage about the use of money.[3]

Whether or not Jesus intended to speak here with the precision of law (if so, it is the only instance in the Gospels), it is nonetheless clear that as Christians we are stewards of an ideal of marriage which Jesus revealed and renewed. We get so caught up in the legalisms of “divorce,” “annulment,” and “remarriage,” and in what is a “sin,” that sometimes we forget to defend, describe and dream of marriage as the ideal relationship God intends it to be — and for which he pours out enabling graces to all who embrace it from the heart.

The fact is, God said, “I hate divorce.”[4]

Not only God, but everyone who has been divorced hates divorce, even if they found relief in it. Father Bernard Häring, one of the most respected moral theologians of modern times, said:

Personally, I would be ashamed of myself if I felt even the slightest temptation to judge divorced and remarried people as “living objectively in a state of grave sin” after they have suffered so much pain and humiliation in the breakdown of their first marriage.[5]

It is time we thought and spoke less about remarriage after divorce as a sin, and more about the ideal of marriage as God designed it. He elevated it through grace to be the image of Christ’s own relationship with his Bride, the Church. To proclaim and promote the ideal—and possibility—of true Christian marriage is a work of stewardship in the world. Lead us to seek beyond our reach and give us the courage to stand before your truth.”

New wine, new wineskins 

The Gospel ends with Jesus saying, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Jesus is not pretending to teach truth that is obvious, or even acceptable to commonsense rational judgment. Much less is it acceptable to minds conditioned by culture to see things the way “everybody” sees them. The only way to accept the teaching of Jesus is to come to it with minds as open as those of little children who have no fixed ideas about the way the world should be. Minds open to wonder, to see and accept everything new. For us adults this means being born again — of water and the Spirit.[6]

Hebrews 2: 9-11 (the letter we will read for the next eight Sundays) tells us Jesus won this new life for us by dying and rising “for the sake of all humans.” By dying and rising “in Christ,” we are new wineskins able to receive new wine.[7]

Insight: What makes my faith — what I know from Jesus —such a precious gift?

Initiative: Each day think of one thing Jesus says that can help you and people you know.

[1] Genesis 1: 24-25.
[2] See Ephesians 5:28-31; 1Corinthians 7: 10-14.
[3] Luke 16: 1-31. Compare Matthew 19: 3-12 with 16-26; and Mark 10: 2-12 with 17-27.
[4] Malachi 2:13-16.
[5] Priesthood Imperiled, Triumph Books (Ligouri) 1996, page 24. See also 119. Fr. Häring was professor of moral theology in Rome for 25 years. He also taught at Yale, Brown, Fordham, Georgetown, and Temple Universities.
[6] John 3:5.
[7] Matthew 9:17.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

“The Lord listens to the poor” (Psalm 69)

October 3, 2015
SATURDAY, Year I, week 26

The Responsorial Psalm offers hope to all who know their need: “The Lord listens to the poor” (Psalm 69).

Baruch 4: 5-29 gives us hope even when our sins have brought disaster on us. Our hope is based, not on our behavior, but on God’s love and mercy. But we need to ask him for help: “Fear not, my children. Call out to God!” Prayer is an acknowledgement, both of our need and of God’s “steadfast love.” We need to be explicitly conscious of both.

We also need to start changing our ways. “As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God, turn now ten times the more to seek him.” To “convert,” or “turn” is to change direction. We should not be discouraged if it takes us a while to change our behavior or bring others to do so. When a large ship is underway, it takes miles for it to turn. But the minute the steersman has swung the wheel to move the tiller, the turn has begun. And the minute we “change our minds” (metanoia, “repentance”) and point ourselves in the right direction, our conversion has begun. And God will be with us to “bring us back enduring joy.”

The only way to stop a society’s headlong rush to destruction is to turn it, little by little, in another direction. That is what leaders do. When cattle stampeded in the days of the trail drives, the only way to stop them was for the cowboys to race to the front of the herd where the leaders were, and begin gradually to turn the cattle to one side. By turning them into a tighter and tighter circle, they could get the herd to “mill.” Then they would stop.

We must never underestimate the power that a society stampeding in the wrong direction has to carry everyone along with it. For this reason, Christian leaders must seek to transform society: change cultural attitudes and values; reform structures and policies; reshape patterns of behavior in business, politics and in the Church. The starting point is to admit the need and pray — “The Lord listens to the poor” — then act with hope.

In Luke 10: 17-24 Jesus promises us success but tells us not of focus on it, but rather that “your names are inscribed in heaven.” If we are leaders, it is not because we are “learned and clever.” It is because we have become like “little children” before God, asking to be taught. It is all God’s gift. “Many prophets and kings wished to see what you see….” Our focus needs to be on seeking union of mind and heart with Jesus; the rest follows. “Send forth your Spirit and our hearts will be regenerated. And you will renew the face of the earth.” The ground of everything is humility and prayer “The Lord listens to the poor.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Answer need with prayer, hope and action.

Friday, October 2, 2015

“For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us” (Psalm 79)

October 2, 2015 
(also feast of the Holy Guardian Angels with Gospel Matthew 18:1-10)
FRIDAY, Year I, week 26:

The Responsorial Psalm voices life-giving hope: “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us” (Psalm 79).

The restoration of Judaism in Jerusalem really began in Babylon, when the exiled Jews were spurred by the prophets to repentance, which means “a change of mind.” The gift of the prophets, as we see in Baruch 1: 15-22, was first to identify the cause of what the people were suffering; then to offer hope, based on their own intimate knowledge of God’s “steadfast love” and mercy; and on the basis of this to call them to repentance.

Baruch calls the people to admit that they brought all their evils on themselves because “we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice.” But God’s promise gives hope, leading to repentance:

In the land of their captivity they shall have a change of heart…. and I will bring them back …. I will be their God, and they shall be my people… (2: 31-35).

Baruch goes on to praise the law of Moses as a way of supreme prudence and wisdom. He then restates the basic principle of life: “All who cling [to God’s law] will live, but those will die who forsake her.” Then he describes the glory of a converted, restored Jerusalem: “For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship” (5: 3-4). This inspires hope-fed prayer: “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us!

In Luke 10: 13-16 we see that some rejected the preaching of Jesus himself, even backed up by miracles.

Woe to you, Chorazin!… Bethsaida!… If the miracles worked in your midst had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have reformed in sackcloth and ashes!

Jesus warns us that if we are not alert we will destroy ourselves just as generations before us did. Israel’s history is a recurring pattern: they kept God’s law and were happy; then they got arrogant and ignored the law. Disaster followed — over and over again.

One glance at modern America should convince us that we are in the arrogant stage. We have wealth and power, seek more and more, and think our wealth and power will protect us. Some politicians exclude religion, others give it lip service; a large (but decreasing) number of intellectuals despise it; policy-setters in business and the media mainly ignore it. And most of us are doing nothing about it. If Christians do not stand up and exert leadership where it is needed, our civilization will die. We need to hope, pray and act: “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us!

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Take hope. Show it by working for change.